By Clay Keene
August 13, 2005
I arrived in Ketchikan on the steamship Princess Patricia 42 years ago this month. The Princess Patricia docked at the old Alaska Steam Ship dock, across from the Sourdough Bar. I remember that day in early August 1963 like it was yesterday. Two deer were hanging from the entry of the Sourdough. We spent our first night at the Stedman Hotel. We got little sleep that night because of the crashing beer bottles and fights going on outside our window throughout the night.
In those 42 years since my family arrived in Ketchikan much has changed. Most of the downtown bars have been replaced with tourist shops. The old Spruce Mill is now a vibrant commercial development. The late night brawls are almost a thing of the past. And instead of two cruise ships a week, Ketchikan has four and five cruise ships a day. But in those 42 years little has been done to accommodate the 800,000 passengers arriving in Ketchikan during the summer, or to make downtown Ketchikan a better place for them and locals.
I would like to see improvement to our downtown streets, sidewalks and docks. That is why I am urging people to vote YES for Proposition No.1 on Tuesday. Ketchikan very much needs the improvements the revenue bonds will bring. The arguments against Proposition No. 1 simply make no sense.
Many of the people who now complain have not been involved in the discussions and debates that have been on going for the last three years. I accept what the City has advertised, that the revenue bonds will be paid with cruise ship docking and passenger fees, and not out of the pockets of local tax payers. I have heard nothing offered by the opponents to Proposition No. 1 to convince me otherwise.
Although I enjoy and greatly respect Walt Bolling, I must disagree with his recent letters urging a NO vote on Proposition No. 1. Walt Bolling has always been a man of opportunity, and one who would take advantage of a good thing, if given the chance. Revenue bonds are a good thing for the people and City of Ketchikan. I wish Walt had participated in those discussions and debates on dock improvements during these last three years. His participation would have been good for the debate. But at the end of the day, I truly believe, had Walt been there during those discussions, he would now be voting YES on Proposition No. 1.
There is simply no reason for any informed person to vote NO on Proposition No. 1. Contrary to the opposition, the assets of this community will not be at risk. The revenue bonds are secured with the "revenue" from the cruise ship moorage and passenger fees. Revenue bonds are non-recourse. This means the bond holders have no recourse against the City of Ketchikan if the cruise ship and passenger fees decline or dry up completely.
In other words, the assets of the City of Ketchikan are not at risk to repay the bonds as would be the case if the bonds were the typical general obligation bond we use to finance new sewers and schools. These are the facts, and facts the opponents of Proposition No. 1 are either ignoring or refusing to accept.
Federal law requires that cruise ship and passenger fees be used only to pay for improvements attributable to impact resulting from the cruise ship industry. With those fees the City is allowed to construct more and better parking, widen streets and sidewalks, put in rest areas, restrooms, downtown parks, expand cruise ship docks and improve City Float.
Construction of these needed improvements will create jobs for Ketchikan. New jobs and opportunities for the construction trades, and others, will only happen if Proposition No. 1 passes. And what is wrong with that?
Before voting on Proposition No. 1 please take the time to acquaint yourself on what I believe is one of the most important decisions this community has been asked to make. Don't be led to believe that your taxes will go up if the the cruise ship and passenger fees go down. That is not what will happen! We need to make improvements to downtown Ketchikan, I know, I work there, and something needs to be done, and now!
A decision was made after the Pulp Mill closed to encourage and promote a tourism based economy. That is the course this community has taken. That is the course this community has directed the City Council to take. That is the course the City Council has directed the City Manager to take. And that is the course that has been debated and discussed in public forums over the course of the last three years.
A NO vote on Proposition No. 1 ignores the public debate and discusses that have been on going the last three yeas. A NO vote on Proposition No. 1 is a step backwards and will do nothing but hurt the stability of Ketchikan s tourist based economy. We may not like the tourists. But the life style and services we enjoy, the low taxes we pay, are thanks to those 800,000 tourists who come off the ships, and spend their money in shops and restaurants, and on tours.
All of us know local families that now depend in some part on the economy brought to Ketchikan by tourist. Those families and this community have prospered because of those tourist dollars. Using those dollars to improve our community, without risk to ourselves or to Ketchikan makes sense.
A loss of tourist sales tax dollars will mean a direct increase in other municipal taxes, and worse yet, a loss in services. The opponents of Proposition No. 1 fear an increase in taxes if Proposition No. 1 passes. Sadly, a NO vote on Proposition No. 1 will bring an increase in taxes and a loss in services as the tourist sale tax dollars decline because we failed to take this opportunity to make the improvements to Ketchikan needs. Please do not let that happen!
Please, vote YES on Tuesday in favor of Proposition No. 1.
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